Krakow: The unedited travels of a student

So, yesterday I flew to krakow in Poland with some university friends of mine. We were up at 3am to make a 7am flight from Southend Airport. The entire experience has been oddly reminiscent for me. It was the first stop on my interrailing trip last summer and it’s where Abbey had her accident.

This trip has been much more tame than the last, pretty easy going (but everyone has only just caught up on sleep, most of us hadn’t bothered before the flight). Today, the rest are visiting Auschwitz and I’m using this time to do some of the things I didn’t get to do in Krakow before. I think having the day to myself will be really good, I’ve been going crazy at uni and so a day rambling around a city will be a lovely break. Wandering through foreign cities is one of my favourite things to do. Travelling last summer opened my eyes to how endless the world really is.

Krakow is such a small city it’s easy to do in just a few days. The castle is beautiful and the central square has this really peaceful feeling, aimless wandering is definitely on the cards today (and lots of coffee, too).

I hope to see a few museums today and visit the Jewish district. I’d love to buy a journal out here, I’ve been looking for one for ages and it’d be lovely to start writing whilst in Poland.

Being here has only made me want to travel more, see parts of the world I have yet to see: Asia, Africa, America…. At university it is so easy to get absorbed into a bubble of friends, a routine of lectures and drinking that I forget I used to have these great plans and ambitions.

I will update with some pictures later.

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Living in London (another ramble)

 Being a student and living in one of the greatest cities in the world  

            I can see The Shard from my kitchen window, a fact I tell everyone back home and one that never fails to surprise me every morning (or afternoon) as I put the kettle on. So, what is it about London that makes living here so great? Because it can’t be the extortionate price of housing, the dreary weather or the bad transport. I think, for me at least, it has a lot to do with the diversity. Growing up in a Conservative strong hold and attending white middle class schools felt stuffy and outdated. I am now studying on a course that is roughly one third UK students, one third EU and one third from outside the EU. Student halls are a mix of languages and cultures, too. It is all a shock to the system, but in a good and exciting way. I have to say that there are far more Conservatives at university than I imagined, so in some ways it is just like being at home!

            London is iconic. The architecture is beautiful and walking over Waterloo Bridge on the way to lectures, even on a wet and windy day, never fails to make me smile. The part of me that is consumed by wanderlust is somewhat tamed by living here. London feels like a city of possibility. Although I recognise that it is definitely a place best experienced when you have money, or time. I don’t have all that much money, but I do seem to have a fair amount of time on my hands. I have already experienced many things in London: I have been to the top of The Shard (which was an incredible experience), I have sheltered from the rain in the National Gallery (and ended up spending hours there) and I have walked along Oxford Street at Christmas time. Every time I go to lectures, I walk through Somerset house and get an incredible view of the South Bank. Yet, there are an infinite number of things I haven’t done yet. I haven’t been to the top of St. Pauls nor have I been to the market at Spitalfields. It is easy to get into a lazy student routine of drinking too much at the pub and spending whole mornings (or days) in bed. I suppose this is something I hope to change this term.

            There is more to being a student in London than just doing all the tourist things. For me, being in London was about making connections and discovering opportunities I might not have elsewhere. I have applied for a job at the Museum of London and I have an interview next week! If I am lucky enough to get the job the experience will be an incredible one. It is only working in the gift shop, but nonetheless it offers a different opportunity and I could be working in the centre of London, which is an exciting thought.

            There is no doubt that being a student in London is expensive, but it is manageable. Learning to cook is key I think, being a cheap drunk helps too! I have found transport and textbooks to be the biggest, unexpected, expenditures, only one of which is particular to London. Managing a budget is part of growing up and moving out of halls next year, where I will have to start managing my bills too, will be another shock I am sure. I am determined to stay within Zone One, being able to walk about the city has been one of my favourite things so far. The tube has its own society and rules and conduct and behaviour. It’s too stuffy. As long as it’s not raining too bad (I really need to invest in an umbrella), London is definitely a city best experienced on foot.

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The End of an Era?

I am sure someone, somewhere, once said that writing whilst (mildly) intoxicated was a bad idea. Nevertheless, if it was good enough for Hemingway, it is good enough for me.

So the end of 2013 sort of feels like the end of an era. It was the year in which I finished schooling, as I knew it. I sat my A Level exams and collected my results. By some miracle, I secured my place at King’s and I have entered the (semi) adult world, where I have to do my own washing.

This year has been the first time I have lived away from home. Which has been both wonderfully refreshing and rather disconcerting. The relative serenity that university living has brought me (compared to my hectic household) has been rather nice. However, negotiating shared living and adjusting to new people has been a massive challenge. Away from the comforts of home and a small town, London has been both a comfort and a shock.

I rather wanted to write about the profound things I have learnt about life and myself over the past year and the aspirations I have for the year to come. However, as I sit here now, nothing all that profound springs to mind. So, I believe you will have to settle for the ordinary. 

2013 has been a year of change; that much is certain. In the past few months, I have left the town I grew up in, the boyfriend I had been rather serious about and entered single life as a lazy student who really resents the (not really that far) walk to university in the morning.

The inspiration I had in the first few weeks of uni fizzled out quickly. The joy of simply learning about everything wore out as the realisation that 9am on a Monday morning is fucking early kicked in. My passion for learning turned to disinterest as some of my modules proved dull and uninspiring. The £9000 a year was being called into question almost every week (and definitely at each English lecture). However, my bitter and cynical outlook on life should not cloud university wholly. I have learnt a fair bit since I have been here, more about life than Virginia Woolf, but important stuff nonetheless. 

The next year will prove more interesting than the last, I am sure of it. I will only be in classes two days a week, which means I shall have to get a job! I am hoping to do something more fulfilling than Costa. Balancing actual work and school work will be fun to attempt once again. Although, I always found work to be a welcome break from learning, and I hope to actually learn stuff about the big wide world, too. This year also brings big coursework deadlines (3 of which are in the coming week!!) and end of year exams. This is a daunting prospect, for sure. My first two assignments have come back as 2:1s and I am hoping I can keep this up for the coming year. I might add that the pressure to get a First has only slightly been increased by my parents’ inscribing, “Here’s to a First Class Honours!” on the back of my iPad….

The end of 2013 truly means saying goodbye to the education system I so loathed and embracing a system that encourages (and requires) students to push themselves to read and to be more than they could. University is definitely more than just a system of education; it is a completely different lifestyle. So, I suppose it is the end of an era, and a beginning of a new one. I am sure I have absolutely no idea what the next year brings for me, but I am optimistic about it anyway. 

Happy New Year, I hope the universe is kind to you. 

 

 

 

 

University Life

Having only just finished my first term at uni I know as much about university as I do about life itself (very little). The last four months have been the strangest experience of my life. It has been like some weird social experiment; two flats of people from all over the world are suddenly thrown together and expected to live communally whilst completing degrees. The hardest part for me has undoubtedly been living with other people. I am a naturally intolerant person, which is something I have found to be mildly problematic when trying to make friends. However, I have to say, my flatmates must be the most understanding and patient people on the planet as they manage to put up with me. Adjusting to sharing a kitchen with complete strangers was a weird experience. Realising that getting a First was going to require me to actually do all (or at least most of) the assigned reading was even more of a shock.

So, I’d like to summarise some of the things I have learnt about life and myself over these weird, weird last four months:

  1. People are not inherently bad (however much I would like to believe they are). Everyone has their own story, and it’s probably far more interesting than your own; take time to listen to it. 
  2. Actually do your washing up.
  3. Go to more than half your course lectures, it will probably help in the long run and spending all day in bed is actually less fun than you think (trust me).
  4. 9am on a Monday morning isn’t that bad if you don’t go to sleep Sunday night.
  5. Buying good coffee is as necessary as buying loo roll.
  6. People are a lot funnier and more interesting if you’re both intoxicated.
  7. Your lecturers have no idea who you are (unless you actually use their office hours (Brita!))
  8. Don’t do a science, they actually have a lot of work
  9. The corridor is a much better place to hang out than the kitchen.
  10. Join every society you possibly can and meet people you wouldn’t otherwise know. 
  11. Alcohol is expensive. 
  12. Living in a city is a chance that you shouldn’t pass up. 
  13. Pancake parties are by far the best way to finish essays at 4am.
  14. Keeping in touch with old friends is both invaluable and overrated; know where to draw the line.
  15. Speak to your parents often.
  16. The kitchen floor is a legitimate place to sleep.
  17. Northerners are weird.
  18. So are really south Southerners. 
  19. It is always an appropriate time of the day to drink.
  20. Being at university is fucking awesome. 

My First Greggs’ Sausage Roll

Like many students across the country, I have just arrived home after my first term at university. Whilst the experience was both thrilling and bitterly disappointing, university has been an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime. Upon arriving home I was greeted with many of the home comforts I had so sorely missed, my parents, a hot shower that stayed hot, sky telly and a double bed that I didn’t fear falling out of in the middle of the night. Home was comforting and safe and despite being adamant that at 19 I was now a fully independent woman, I thoroughly enjoyed being at home again. 

However, my world came crashing down after the realisation that I was starting my Christmas job after just one night at home. Throughout my A levels I worked Saturdays and during my holidays so, being a member of Costa Coffee had sort of become ingrained in me, rather like an unsightly spot that you know popping will only make worse. I needed the job for the money but working within a multinational corporation felt rather like selling my soul to the devil. 

My Mother maintained that it wouldn’t be as bad as I expected, that I had done it before and therefore I could do it again. My elder sister who was currently working full time at the Costa store I was temping at over the holiday period chimed in with “if I can do it every bloody day, you can do it for three weeks”. Perhaps they were right, my first three months at university had made me work shy and earning my own money was something I should embrace, not moan about constantly.

Oh how wrong we all were. 

Unless you work in this type of service based industry I think it is hard to truly understand what it is like. I have a new found respect for these people, who turn up everyday and have the ability to, unlike me, not moan about it all the fucking time. This is what hard graft really is. The work is physically demanding, being on your feet for over 8 hours a day with only one measly 30 minute break takes it toll. The job is fast paced and leaves no time to think (perhaps why the industry has avoided being unionised for so long). The worst bit of all though has to be the customers. Whilst the staff are working their arses off for a little over minimum wage the general public get to tut and moan about the level of service. The men and women I work with don’t stand around chatting, being actively slow or obnoxious; they are doing their very best and working tirelessly for money that is, quite honestly, a joke. 

In my time at Costa I have heard comments such as “It’s a good job you’re not performing brain surgery”, “I could’ve died waiting for this cup of coffee”, “Do you not think you overcharge for all of this?”, “Do you have any idea what you’re even doing?”. 

This is the most irritating thing of all, people paying obscene prices for drinks that I don’t want to make and they don’t really want to pay for. It costs Costa Coffee around 6p to produce a small black americano, which we sell for just shy of £2. Of course you’ve got to take into consideration the shitty pay of the workers, the rent of the building etc… But if I am selling a cup of coffee at over a 3,000% mark up I kind of expect to be earning more and bitched at less. 

Our society ignores this class of people that work exceptionally hard for poor wages. This is not just unique to Whitbread (who own Table Table, Beefeater and Premier Inn also), but this is evident across the service industry. This is the emergence of a new type of working class, one which doesn’t necessarily adhere to traditional class stipulations but who are treated as such. These workers are marginalised by the corporations who are intent on increasing profits at the expense of their workers. My colleagues are over worked and underpaid, yet they find a way to become comfortable in their oppression. They all have a fantastic sense of humour and comradery, which is the driving force for their work. I have a huge respect for every single one of them. This is not something I could ever do day in day out, they are far better than me in this respect. 

And so, after an eight hour shift yesterday which left me so downhearted I ate my first Greggs sausage roll I am off to start my next shift.Image